November 13, 2023
Israeli attacks have killed 11,240 Palestinians since Oct. 7. Hundreds of Claremont studednts have mobilized to demand the colleges divest from Israel in response.
Saturday, Oct. 7: Hamas escalates violent resistance against Israeli occupation. Israel begins indiscriminate bombardment of Gaza. As of Nov. 13, Israeli attacks have killed 11,240 people in Palestine since Oct. 7, according to Al Jazeera. A separate Nov. 8 analysis by the most-read newspaper in Norway found that Israeli forces had killed more five-year-olds than Palestinians of any other age.
Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) and Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP) organized a teach-in at the Motley attended by at least 75 students. Organizers spoke about the history of the Israeli occupation of Gaza, especially the Israeli blockade of the Gaza Strip that began in 2007 and escalated into a “total siege” this October, which organizers said effectively turned Gaza into the world’s “largest open-air prison.”. After the teach-in, students chanted and marched through all five college campuses.
Students gathered at Pomona’s Smith Campus Center for a day of action calling for divestment from Israel. 15 student organizations, including a number of affinity groups, gave solidarity statements. As part of the action, students built a vigil on the fountain at the SCC, placing down flowers, letters, signs and stuffed animals. The action also included a second teach-in.
The following Monday, Oct. 24, Pomona Associate Dean of Students Josh Eisenberg emailed organizers from CSWA and SJP, asking about taking down the vigil due to “rain damage.” Both organizers clarified that it wasn’t their group or any group, but “many students who wanted to be in community with one another,” who hosted the action, and asked that the vigil be left untouched so that it could be restored.
Eisenberg replied at 5:15 a.m. on Tuesday, saying that “we cannot have the SCC fountain or the plaza become home to memorials or other smaller tributes.” By 9:41 a.m. Tuesday, the vigil had been completely cleared.
Overnight, students pasted multiple posters on Balch Auditorium reading “Divest Now!”, “Scripps Funds Apartheid,” a quote from the Scripps Alumni Petition and quotes from Israeli officials and historical figures about the colonial mission of the Israeli state. Scripps removed the posters early the next morning using scrapers and a powerwasher; they were completely gone by 7:30 a.m.
Joining students from Columbia, Harvard, UPenn, UCSB, UCSD, UC Berkeley, UCLA and other schools around the country, over 370 Claremont students left class, work, and other obligations to rally in support of Palestine. After the rally, which was held at Bowling Green, the students marched down to Pomona administrative building Alexander Hall, delivering a delegation speech demanding divestment to Pomona Treasurer Jeff Roth outside of his office. The delegation speaker promised escalatory actions if demands were not met.
On Oct. 25, Vice President for Student Affairs and Dean of Students Avis Hinkson sent an email to the Pomona student body detailing new guidelines that limits the bounds of student activism and protesting at the 5Cs. The email outlined an updated events policy and advertising/publicity policy, as well as a set of repercussions for failure to adhere to the policy.
Key updates include:
students paste posters at SCC and dye Coop Fountain red overnight. The college removed the posters and refilled the fountain by 9:30 a.m.
113 students sat and picketed in front of the entrance to Little Bridges auditorium on Oct. 27, forcing Starr to cancel her Family Weekend address. Students also reconstructed a vigil on the steps of Little Bridges. The college cleared the vigil 1.5 hours after the sit-in ended.
Pomona VP for Advancement Maria Watson sent an email in the morning telling parents that “you may encounter student demonstrations. Our student body has been active in response to the terrorist attacks and ongoing warfare in the Middle East.”
An anonymous student organizer criticized the college’s failure to name the genocide in Palestine in a statement to Undercurrents.
“In all their messaging [Pomona] has referred to the genocide in Gaza and occupied Palestine as a conflict in the Middle East, and has refused to say the word Palestine or acknowledge what is happening aside from messaging about terror.”
“[They have] also chosen to reduce the action during family weekend to an acknowledgment to the parents that students here get angry about things…as if the reason for demonstrations is not because of the horrifying violence of the settler colonial state of Israel and the ongoing ethnic cleansing of Palestinians.”
147 7C faculty and staff (in addition to 33 anonymous faculty members) signed a statement acknowledging that “Israeli settler-colonialism, military occupation and apartheid” are the roots of this “new and alarming phase in the long record of violence, displacement, and colonial domination of Palestine.” With approximately 3,200 faculty and staff at the 5Cs, 4 percent of this body signed the statement on Gaza.
In addition to acknowledging the devastating toll of Israeli occupation and bombardment in Palestine, the statement called upon other professors in Claremont to support BDS efforts, and uphold “academic freedom” and “free speech protections for all community members”.
A second delegation of students arrived in Jeff Roth’s office on Nov. 3, again calling for divestment and promising further escalation.
“We are here today on behalf of the 5C community, to reiterate that Pomona College must immediately divest from the ethnic cleansing and forced displacement of the Palestinian people,” a student organizer who read the delegation statement said. “To invest in Israel is to blatantly violate the Palestinian call for BDS and the demands of the community, which has been calling for disclosure and divestment from apartheid for decades.”
Following the delegation, more than 126 students picketed at the intersection of 6th St. and College Ave. outside of Alexander Hall, forcing Campus Security to divert traffic from the intersection from two directions. Students in safety vests redirected traffic in the other two directions.
Two weeks after the initial updated guidelines on events and publicity were released by Dean Hinkson, President Gabi Starr released an email outlining a new, more invasive guideline: that students may be required to remove their masks so they can be recognized in the case “potential conduct or demonstration policy violations appear to be taking place.”
Dean Hinkson sent a corresponding email to Starr’s stating that student’s would be offered a “place of respite” on Nov. 9, and to contact their class dean if interested.
Undercurrents was the first to report that Starr issued the notice one day after an organization called StandWithUs sent a letter to Pomona suggesting the same policy. The organization, “an international, non-partisan education organization that supports Israel and fights antisemitism.” stated that Pomona has “the right to prohibit masks worn for the purpose of concealing identity.”
Over 180 Claremont students arrived at Alexander Hall at 7 am, blocking the building’s entrances to prevent Pomona administrators from entering and doing “business as usual.”.
The building contains the offices of Roth, Hinkson, Chief Investment Officer Dave Wallace and other administrators targeted by organizers.. Dozens of students sat in front of the building’s five main entrances while others picketed around them, holding signs and posters calling for divestment. At one of the entrances of Alexander Hall, students displayed a poster that read, “Pomona College Divest From Genocide”.
Within minutes, multiple Claremont Colleges campus security officers arrived at the scene, telling students to move from entrances and circling the building to monitor students but not engaging further.
During the first hour of the sit-in, administrators and staff unable to enter the building congregated on Stover Walk. Around 8:30 am, campus security were able to escort a large portion of the staff into the building through a basement entrance at the front of the building. Officers also opened two unblocked side doors. Students moved to block all three doors after administrators were let in.
At 9 a.m., organizers regrouped the students and pivoted into a picket circling the building.
The picket paused around 10:30 a.m. At 11 a.m., more students arrived for the scheduled teach-in on Marston Quad. By the time the teach-in concluded at 12, more than 420 students had gathered to listen in
Some students left after the teach-in, but most stayed to form a picket around and through Alexander Hall until 1 p.m.
Issue 1 / Spring 2023
Setting the Standard
How Pomona workers won a historic $25 minimum wage; a new union in Claremont; Tony Hoang on organizingRead issue 1